Saranda is becoming more popular every year and more people decide to stay here for longer then just for a short holiday. Citizens from the EU and many other countries can stay in Albania for up to 90 days in any 180 day period without the need for a visa, and Americans can even stay up to 12 months. But how do you find an apartment to rent in Saranda for these longer periods without paying an inflated touristic price?
The Rental Market In Saranda
There are more apartments then there are people living in Saranda, so it shouldn’t be hard to find an apartment. What’s actually harder to find is an apartment that meets your specific needs at a reasonable and fair price.
The rental market in Saranda is very untransparent and inefficiënt and this often leads to foreign people overpaying for their apartments. Many Albanian apartment owners don’t speak English very well, or don’t know how to market their apartments online, so they rely on agents and referrals, or don’t even bother renting it out during the off season.
Apartment Prices In Saranda
Apartment prices are very low in Saranda but rental prices can vary a lot depending on the time of the year, length of stay and who you’re renting from. But under normal circumstances you should expect to pay anywhere between 150 to 400 euros per month for a long term rental.
Understanding The Seasonality Of The Rental Market
Many apartment owners only want to rent out their apartment at monthly rates from October until May, because they can make much more money during the summer months by renting it out to tourists at daily or weekly rates. Imagine you can make 60-80 euros a night during the 3 summer months, then a quick calculation shows you that the high season is where you make the bulk of the money, so having any tenants during the rest of the year is just a nice bonus. It’s good to be aware of this so you can take this into consideration when planning your stay and when searching for apartments and negotiating the price.
Searching And Booking Apartments Online
Let’s first look at the easiest way of searching and booking online via the international booking sites and why this is not a good idea.
Let’s first start with the advantages. Online booking sites like Booking.com and Airbnb are very transparent and offer a lot of options with photos, detailed descriptions of amenities, and reviews, so it’s easy to compare offers. The platforms have a reliable reputation so booking online is not only convenient, but also safe. Your booking is guaranteed so your host can’t just cancel without any concequences, you can always report issues to the platform, and leave your own reviews (good or bad) for the next guests. Another advantage is that prices are usually inclusive of utilities and internet, so you don’t have to worry about any additional costs.
However, the big disadvantage of this is that it all comes at an incredible cost. Firstly hosts have to pay a large fee to the booking platform. Secondly, booking platforms are set up with daily rates, which make long term rentals very expensive. Thirdly, although hosts can appy discounts for weekly or monthly stays, they know that people who book online don’t know the domestic rental market and are willing to pay a lot more for the convenience of locking in their booking upfront. So overall, online prices can easily be double or triple the monthly price you pay when searching for an apartment locally. So what are the alternatives?
Search Apartments Locally
A great start is the Properties For Rent section on our website, where you can find available apartments and contact the owners directly. We offer this service for free and don’t get any commission because we simply want to offer the best one-stop shop for everything you need when visiting Saranda. We understand the struggle of finding affordable accommodation and we want to make the rental market in Saranda more efficient and transparent.
Other online sources to search for apartments are the websites of local real estate agencies and local Facebook groups. You’ll regularly come across genuine apartment offers from owners in expat groups on Facebook, but be aware that this is also where most scams are unfolding.
If you post that you’re looking for an apartment in any Facebook group, the chances are high that multiple people respond, which is both good and bad. You might receive some genuine offers from apartment owners, but you’re also a target for people who simply smell commission, or even try to scam you.
Be especially aware when people jump on your request without any specific offer, but rather come up with very vague responses like ‘I have many options for you’, ask you to join another questionable Facebook group, or only ask you questions like: “What is your budget?”. These are al signs that you’re dealing with a middlemen who’s interested in getting commission rather than genuinely wanting to help you.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with paying an agent who takes care of your needs, but there are simply good ones and bad ones. Some agents have a good reputation, but unfortunately we’ve also heard several stories from tenants that were left without internet, electricity or water for days and very little communication or even lies from their agent, who still kept its share of the rent, so be very careful who you’re dealing with.
Get Your Feet On The Ground First
You can get the best deals for an apartment by getting your feet on the ground first. You can do this by booking a cheap hotel or apartment online, for example via Booking.com, for a few days first. This gives you the time to walk around and get a better feeling for the different areas and streets in Saranda before you make any long term commitments. Not only will you see many signs for apartments, but you’ll also notice things you might not have thought about when selecting a location before you come here. For example, what’s open or closed during the off season, what’s the noise level in a particular area or street, is there any construction going on and do you mind walking up a hill to your new home or not.
When you’re already in Saranda you can also start asking around for recommendations from locals and expats. Everyone in Saranda knows at least someone who knows someone with an apartment, so sometimes it feels that there are as many real estate agents as there are people with a phone in Saranda. By networking and asking around you can also collect opinions on who to trust or not when it comes to agents and other middlemen.
Albanians are very good at negotiating and part of the strategy is to not publicly advertise an apartment with a price and rather ask you for your budget so they can high ball an offer. Therefore you should never give out your budget and always ask for an offer first. They expect you to negotiate, so never accept the first offer.
Apartments are almost always offered at a higher price to foreigners and the increasing amount of expats makes these higher prices more common, but not unavoidable. So be firm when negotiating and also be prepared to walk away. They won’t easily find another tenant, but you have many apartments to choose from. Asking an Albanian to negotiate on your behalf might also help to get the price down.
The Longer You Stay, The Lower The Rent
Another reason why apartments are not always advertised with a price, is because the rent depends on how long you will stay. People are more willing to lower the rent when you agree to stay for six months or a year, rather then one or a few months.
Agree On What’s Included In The Rent
Apart from agreeing on the rental price, you should also make specific agreements about what utilities, like electricity, water and internet, are included. For anything that’s not included, you should either agree a fixed amount upfront, or insist on receiving the actual bills, so you can make sure you’re not paying too much.
Rental agreements are rather uncommon, but this doesn’t mean that you will have to accept this and in the end you need to decide for yourself if you want to take the risk or not. But if you want to apply for a residency permit you need a notarized 12-month lease agreement in most cases, so agree about this with the owner before you move into your apartment if that is the case for you.